Dutch artist Amy Fagaard reflects on ‘Chasing Realism’

Amy Fagard is always up for a challenge. The Netherlands-based artist paints realistic images that aim to evoke a feeling in the viewer – a sense of place, of memory. She said she doesn’t think her work falls into the category of hyperrealism, but that’s not for the faint of heart.

“I’ve always wanted to get to this level,” she said. “It’s almost like you could jump into that scene and sit under that tree and read a book or feel the wind. Or you can pick up the object, touch it, and feel it in your mind.

“I’ve always been really fascinated by that fact. I thought, “Wow, I wish I could do that.” I don’t think I’m there yet.”

Looking at the highly detailed work in Fagard’s exhibition, “The Pursuit of Realism,” on display at the Café Arts Museum of Southeast Texas through Feb. 4, one would think she’s a lot closer than she lets on.

Fagard said some people think realistic painting is just a matter of copying whatever is in front of them, but Fagard said it takes a lot of work.

“You’re going to take a flat surface and apply paint, trying to create a three-dimensional object,” she said. “It’s like anything else, writing music or anything else. They just see the romantic, wonderful quality at the end. They don’t know that you redid and redid and repainted, took something out, threw it away.”

Fagard said he works for weeks on each painting. The large blue vase painting took three months. She will work on up to three paintings at a time, but more than three and one will get lost in the shuffle, she said.

Several of the paintings in the show feature lace draped over a dresser. The detail is such that one feels as if one could reach out and pick it up. Lace is a progression from an initial series where Faggard sought to capture the subtle folds in the fabric. Once she absorbed that, she challenged herself to take the next step.

“After I did a couple of plain fabric (paintings) with the pleats and all that, I thought, ‘Wow, it would be great if I could paint a lace fabric in still life,'” she said. “And I was like, ‘You can’t do this.’ And then I felt, ‘Hey, if you don’t try, you’ll never see if you can do it.’

Fagard bought three pieces of lace to experiment with. The paintings in the show are the same piece after she found the others had too much tulle. The one she chose had more details. She sets up the still lifes in her home studio and takes photos from different angles, loading them onto her computer before choosing the best composition.

“Of course, there are things I still have to edit because there was a candle on the dresser and there was a clock on the dresser — and people don’t even have clocks anymore,” she said, laughing.

The image is then drawn onto the canvas and she edits and adapts as she goes.

Having mastered the technique of rendering lace, Faggard now explores fabrics with great detail and color. She always pursues a more complex challenge.

“It’s like, ‘Oh, I can do this. Let me try something even harder,’ or they’re equally hard,” she said.

Fagard said her husband, Albert, who is also an artist and educator, says she has a lot of patience.

“Maybe I have a lot of patience in that area because if you love doing it, you want it right and it looks right,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way. You want it to look the way you want it to look.

It’s not a matter of patience, Fagard said, it’s just her passion.

“I can not stop. It’s like what you have to do. It’s like you can’t control it,” she said. “I was thinking, what if you’re stranded on a desert island and you don’t have any items or something? You probably started drawing in the sand.

“What if you’re somewhere and don’t have access to supplies? Well, that would be a horrible existence.

Objects in still lifes evoke different feelings, Fagard said.

“I hope it brings back good memories,” she said. “Whatever you watch, whether you like it or not, can actually bring back good or not-so-good memories. Just like music would bring back a feeling or a memory. I hope there might be like, “Oh, I don’t like this because I remember spilling something on grandma’s tablecloth,” or “I remember this beautiful party dress I had.”

Faggard will keep “Chasing Realism” because that’s just her nature, she said.

“I’ve tried to get away from realism, and then I always find myself back on that path,” she said. “You have to be who you are, you know? You can’t try to be someone else; you can only be you.”

A free reception for “Chasing Realism” will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on January 21.

AMSET is located at 500 Main St. in Beaumont. For more information, visit amset.org.

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